University hosts Swedes in mini-Riksdag

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University hosts Swedes in mini-Riksdag

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A standing-room-only crowd packed a Seoul National University auditorium Tuesday as many of the major leaders of the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament, gathered for a forum, the final event on the itinerary of their six-day Korea visit.
The speaker of the house, Bjorn von Sydow, and the floor leaders of five of the top six minority parties were in attendance. Mr. Sydow moderated, explaining that though a member of the majority party, his position requires him to be politically neutral.
The six party representatives sat right to left, in order of their parties’ percentage of seats in Parliament. After brief presentations, the parliamentarians took questions from the audience of government and school officials, think tank number crunchers and Seoul National students.
Mr. von Sydow playfully instructed the speakers, “You have one minute to one minute for your answers.”
The greatest problem facing Sweden, surprisingly, is the strength of its welfare system. “You could say we have a problem with getting people to go to work,” said Anna Krantz of the Liberal Party.
“We will not be able to pay for the welfare system we have today if we can’t get people back into the labor market. The million people living off social benefits need to go back to work,” said Mikael Odenberg of the major opposition Moderate Party.
“I think you work very hard in Korea,” said Stefan Attefall of the Christian Democrats. “Sometimes in Sweden we think we are very advanced and we don’t see what happens around the world.”
The audience also asked how Sweden’s multiple parties bridge differences in opinion. “We do have fierce political discussions in the Swedish Parliament, but at the same time there is a history of consensus building in our society,” Mr. Odenberg said. “When two Swedes meet with the same opinion they immediately form a federation,” he joked.
Mr. von Sydow closed the session with a quip that echoed Churchill: “Democracy is noisy, messy and expensive. But there’s no better way.”


by Ben Applegate

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